Last week was GenCon, and I played in a few games of it, including MonsterHearts by Joe McDaldno. Although it was the last game I played at the con (we started around noon on Sunday), it’s going to be the first I write up because it’s the only one for which people requested that I send them the notes. So here it is!
The folks involved in the game, and their characters, were:
- Joe, the MC
- Michael (me) as Ray, the Hollow.
- Dylan as Veronica, the Queen
- Lee as Logan, the Infernal*
- Hamish as Lucian, the Vampire
- Jenn as Rowan, the Selkie
- Dave as Gabriel, the Chosen
- Thai as Zach, the Werewolf
*(Lee had to leave about halfway through the session. Joe took over the character as an NPC.)
We all created our characters:
Ray – The Hollow
Look: Haunted, Vacant Eyes
Origin: The product of a wish
Hot-1 (*), Cold-1, Volatile+1, Dark+2 (*)
Moves: “Better than Nothing”, “Mimicry”, (“Metamorphosis” added later on)
Veronica – The Queen
Look: Icy, captivating eyes
Origin: The source of the infection
Hot+2 (*), Cold+1 (*), Volatile-1, Dark-1
Moves: “The Clique” (Cultists), “Many Bodies”, “Streaming” [one of these last two was picked up in game via an advance]
Logan – The Infernal
Look: Anxious, calculating eyes
Hot -1, Cold -1, Volatile +2, Dark +1
Moves: “Soul Debt”, “Dark Recruiter”
Bargains: “Uncanny Voices”, “Strings Attached”
Lucian – The Vampire
Look: smoldering, hungry eyes
Origin: many ages old
Hot 2, Cold 1, Volatile -1, Dark -1
Moves: The Feeding, Hypnotic, Inescapable (bought during play – after the beach sex scene)
Rowan – The Selkie
Look: mussed hair, far away eyes
Origin: curious about the human form
Hot 0 (advanced to 1), Cold 1, Volatile -1, Dark 1
Moves: Catch of the Day, Ocean’s Breath
Zach – the Werewolf
Look: Rugged, cunning eyes
Origin: Ancestral power
Hot+1, Cold-1, Volatile+2, Dark-1 (later raised to =0)
Moves: “Primal Dominance”, “Spirit Armour”
Gabriel – the Chosen
Look: Stubborn, unwavering eyes
Origin: Doing what’s necessary
Hot+1, Cold=0, Volatile1, Dark-1
Moves: “Mercy”, “Take the Blow
(I sadly didn’t get a chance to copy the other playbooks — if you’re reading this and you played one of the characters, you should post it in the comments!)
Some character notes and connections:
- Veronica’s infection is an STD of some sort, transmitted by blood. Her cult is the strongest clique in the school.
- Logan’s Dark Master is named Lucient
- Rowan is very curious about the human form
- Zach is part of a pack
- Gabriel’s family is crazy fundementalist Christian. He sees past Ray’s BS backstory. His father is dead; his mother, Mathilda, is very churchy. He is not following her ways. Mathilda wished for a new son. Thus, Ray.
- Rowan saved Lucian from being trapped at the bottom of the ocean.
- Zach has seen Gabriel kill people.
- Logan stole Rowan’s pelt.
- Logan and Ray are Gabriel’s trusted monster hunting friends. Gabriel intends to save Logan from whatever trouble he’s in.
- Ray takes his social cues from other people, and because Veronica’s clique is the most popular, he’s hovering at the fringe of the clique, trying to get in.
The game takes place near the sea, in San Francisco. Just over the bridge. It’s the start of the schoolweek. The following Friday is Halloween. There’s some sort of Fright Night festivity planned for then. People are positioning to go, figuring out with whom and as what, etc.
Monday, under the bleachers. Rowan has tracked Logan down. Veronica is in earshot. Logan wants Rowan to give herself to Lucient in exchange for her pelt. She refuses and demands it back. Logan uses his uncanny voice, realizing that she’s afraid the principal will discover that she has no family. He tries to use this as leverage. Overhearing this, Veronica realizes what Rowan is. Rowan refuses to make a deal, and storms off.
Veronica sidles up to her as she leaves, and offers to help get the pelt back. She likes helping people, she says. Tyler (one of her croneys) is interested in Rowan. Veronica wants to set them up on a date. Rowan agrees, but she wants Veronica to get the pelt first.
Later, at lunch, Lucian approaches Veronica. She being the leader of the most popular clique at school, he wants to feed on her the most. He swaggers over toward her, but accidentally bumps into Rowan, ruining the entire effect. He sees the principal, Aker Shaman, watching him with a smirk. Lucian chastises Rowan, who pretends to not know what happened.
(We established here that Ray is not infected yet. He gets his clothes from Mathilda, who told Gabriel they couldn’t afford to fix up their father’s motorcycle, and then bought Ray tons of expensive clothes. Clothes that are a shabby, mismatched mimicry of Lucian’s.)
While Lucian and Rowan argue a bit, Gabriel and Veronica also have a bit of a disagreement (over Ray’s clothes). Everyone rolls their eyes at everyone else. Except Heather, (one of Veronica’s followers) who thinks that Gabriel is dreamy. Before leaving the cafeteria, Gabriel mentions to Ray that they’re going Hunting later.
He heads for the gym, where he informs Logan of the Hunt that evening. There’s a haunted house that might be legit that they’re going to check out. Zach walks past, and mentions that one shower is insufficient to wash away the smell of blood.
Logan gets a far-off look, but then crumples to the ground. Gabriel tries basic first aid. Zach is butting into the situation, following as Gabriel drags Logan to the nurse, talking about the football team. Gabriel is trying to blow him off. At reaching the nurse’s station, the nurse (Morgan) tells Zach and Gabriel to leave Logan and go. They leave, Gabriel explaining that he needs Logan up and around as soon as possible. After they’re gone, Morgan slaps Logan awake. She works for Lucient, too; she’s the one who pyramided Logan. He pleads with her a bit. Then, wanting a favor, he shows her the pelt. She takes it from him, very pleased.
That night, Logan joins Gabriel and Ray to go ghost hunting. The haunted house is the site where someone ODed, and there’s been poltergeist activity ever since. The dead girl’s name was Julia.
While they’re taking the advertised tour of the house, meantime Rowan, Zach, and Lucian all arrive separately at the beach. Lucian followed Rowan at a distance. Rowan likes to go out to the shore regularly. Zach is restless and has decided to go running.
The Hunting party manages to ditch the tour. (We decide that Ray hasn’t killed any monsters yet, and that Gabriel doesn’t know that Logan had a choice in his bargain. Logan recognizes Ray’s ultimate fear — of being alone, of being left without a self. The Darkness relays this to him, and then offers to show him where Julia (the ghost) is, if he’ll take his friends there and then say some words. Logan tells Ray and Gabriel that he’s feeling something from the basement. They head that way.
On the beach, Rowan is contemplating the sea. Zach is running along the beach. Rowan is swimming nude. Zach runs past her, and stumbles clumsily as he sees her. This has no affect on Rowan, but Lucian, watching, sees and is totally charmed by it. He walks forward, turning on the charm. They meet just a few yards from Rowan, and start making out. Rowan is curious, and watches them. Lucian turns to look at Rowan — they both do, kind of beckoning toward her. She comes over to them, and she and Zach let Lucian drink their blood; then the three of them have sex together.
Meantime, Logan leads Gabriel and Ray to the basement. Ray hears whispers in the basement, repeating “who are you?” over and over. He loses it, screaming “I DON’T KNOW!” Logan says the words the Darkness gave him. Julia wants to escape and destroy all she can. The atmosphere, which had been quite heavy, suddenly lightens; then the windows shatters. They realize they’ve lost the ghost. Gabriel chews out Logan and storms off, alone, to track down the ghost. As he does, he has a sudden, confusing vision: all the cars are passing back and forth in front of him; then the cars are replaced by the Golden Gate Bridge, receding far away from him.
In the basement, Logan books it out of there. Ray leaves to find Veronica.
Veronica, at this time, is overseeing some sort of sex ritual with her three inner circle followers. She has a space in her family’s rec room in the basement of her house. Her parents never bother her when her friends are around — she doesn’t like that. Her mother is scared. Her dad pays close attention to Heather. While in the middle of the ritual, the door to the basement opens and Veronica’s father asks if they need anything. She yells up at him to go away, and he does; although the door doesn’t click shut.
Veronica sees a vision of another basement; there are books lining the walls, a pentagram, the school nurse is meditating in the center of the pentacle. She has the Selkie’s pelt in front of her. Suddenly, the pipes begin to break; water floods into the basement.
Ray arrives at Veronica’s, but her dad won’t let him in. Veronica comes up to see who’s there. Her dad notices that Ray is afraid; he asks about Ray, and they mumble something and hurry to the basement.
On the beach, it’s afterwards. Zach feels a strong connection to both of the others. Lucian feels like it’s just, you know, a thing that happened. Rowan wants to swim. She and Lucian have done this before. They start speaking in Japanese in front of Zach. Zach feels like running, but as he leaves he says that they should all do this again. In spite of themselves, they can’t bring themselves to shut him down. After he’s gone, they talk about Rowan’s pelt, and her deal with Tyler. Lucian decides to try and make it a double date.
At the Golden Gate bridge, Gabriel sees someone is about to fall off, as if pushed by an invisible force. He runs to grab the person back from the edge, just as Julia makes the person let go. There’s a second or two where the person is just suspended, in which Gabriel sees Julia smile through him — “Tell your buddy thank you!” — and the man falls into the water. Gabriel tries to Julia. He sees a vision of Logan in his bedroom at home, sitting on his bed and looking desperate. Behind him is a woman, soaking wet, dripping, encouraging him to set more ghosts and spirits free. Gabriel takes a cab to Logan’s place.
Rowan is swimming by the Golden Gate, when suddenly a body hits the water.
At Veronica’s house, Veronica sends Heather up to “check on” her dad. She puts Ray into the sex ritual with the other guys.
Gabriel arrives at Logan’s house, climbing the balcony and knocking on the window. He realizes, essentially, that Julia was freed by Logan and taking out Logan will destroy Julia. Logan opens the window for Gabriel. Once inside, Gabriel manages to get the drop on him, putting him in a choke hold and squeezing. Logan is very quiet. He’s weakening, but still fighting back. Gabriel keeps crushing. Somehow Logan manages to break from the choke-hold. Gabriel hits him on the back of the head with his shotgun — he kills him. But Logan’s mother has heard the commotion, and walks in to see Logan, dead, and Gabriel standing over him. “…Gabe…?”
Zach switches over to his werewolf form, and ploys into a beach party, maiming and killing.
After the ritual, Ray realizes that no one respects his mother, but everyone respects Veronica. He has a vision of Veronica being the one on the floor, in the ritual, and he’s the one sitting on the side, giving orders. He likes it. He wants to be Veronica.
Gabriel shoots Logan’s mother dead.
Lucian arrives at Veronica’s house, and it’s Ray that answers. He’s dressed in his boxers and Heather’s blouse. Lucian pushes past him. Downstairs, Lucian asks Veronica on the date — she agrees. As Lucian is heading back up the stairs, Ray blurts out that he’d date him, too. Lucian points to his blouse, his boxers, and says, “Pick one.” He heads up the stairs.
Although I’ve owned MonsterHearts ever since the Kickstarter, this was the first time I’d been able to play it, and it was really intense and really fun. Everyone expressed the wish that we could continue on from where we had to end, but we’d been playing for several hours and it was time to head home. Since Joe is a member of the IRL group I normally play with when I have time, I’m definitely going to twist his arm into running a campaign for us sometime soon: I’ll spend as many Strings as I need to make it happen!